Statcast Reveals Ugly Truth About Minnesota Twins' Infield Defense
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsIt has always been tricky to figure out just how to use or trust Defensive metrics have when trying to evaluate baseball players as fielders. While it is clear stats like DRS and UZR tell part of the story for fielders, the jury continues to be out on exactly how reliable these stats can be for us when evaluating players.
Statcast has been at work trying to help find a way of evaluating fielders with a stat that more fully tells the story of a player's performance. That is where OAA or Outs Above Average comes in. The big difference between OAA and stats like DRS and UZR is that OAA for the first time looks at infielders in a way that reflects today’s “positionless baseball”.
Previously DRS and UZR have looked at players and rated them based on the traditional ranges of each infield position. Where DRS and UZR have fallen short is they are not able to shift with players as they shift in today’s style of baseball. OAA has found a way to better evaluate infielders even as they move around the diamond.
For the most part, OAA has affirmed a lot of what we already knew about fielders. As you take a chance to run through the leaderboard most players will wind up where they would on some of the other leaderboards. Eno Sarris did take a look at the biggest movers between the traditional stats we are used to and OAA as part of his recent article in The Athletic.
What is most important to us here at Twins Daily is what does this mean for the Twins infielders. According to OAA the Twins infield defense is still MIA. Ok, MIA may be strong but there isn’t much good to look at. Here is how the Twins starters from last year ranked among their position group followed by their OAA number.
1B C.J. Cron: 17th (+1)
2B Jonathan Schoop: 5th (+5)
SS Jorge Polanco: 35th, last among qualified SS (-16)
3B Miguel Sano: 29th (-5)
Schoop is viewed very favorably by OAA. Problem is that he will not be around in 2020. Same can be said for the only other positively ranked infielder out of last year’s starters, Cron. So here is where the currently projected starting infield ranked in 2019 according to OAA.
1B Marwin Gonzalez: +7 (+2 attributed to 1B)
2B Luis Arraez: -6
SS Jorge Polanco: -16
3B Miguel Sano: -5
As has been observed time and time again, the Twins infield defense is not looking good any way you paint it if each infielder repeats his 2019 performance. Marwin right now represents the only plus defender in the current starting lineup.
One big hope has to be that Polanco just had an especially bad season in 2019 as in 2017 and 2018 he was rated at a -5. Some of the the same can be said for Sano as he was at a -3 the previous two seasons.
Polanco may come out looking the worst with the release of OAA where he seemingly plummets from a +1 DRS to a -16 OAA. Even though Sano may not look great, he does look slightly more favorably and even ranks higher than old friend Eduardo Escobar amongst current third baseman.
Many of us are still hoping for one more signing either at third or first so here are some infielders available (or rumored to be) that could give the Twins an upgrade in infield defense according to OAA.
Nolan Arenado: +17
Josh Donaldson: +8
Brandon Belt: +3
Kris Bryant: +2
Mitch Moreland: -1
This is a real quick look at what this new tool Statcast has placed in our hands to look at infielders is telling us about the Twins. There are several different nuances that I personally still need to and want to explore to see what we can learn about infield defense.
What are your thoughts about OAA. Are you excited for Statcast's newest stat?
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